13/11/12

Commenting on Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s speech on flexible working and parental leave, Dr Adam Marshall, Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

"We support the concept of flexible working, but the proposals to extend the right to request to all workers could make it more difficult for employers to offer flexibility to employees who are parents or have caring duties. Many employees already benefit from flexible working and in the rare cases where an employer feels they cannot support flexible working, a burdensome new consideration process is very unlikely to change that view.

On flexible parental leave:

“Businesspeople understand and accept the logic of giving new parents more flexibility over which of them is best placed to take parental leave. Unfortunately, the government's current proposals risk causing unnecessary friction between parents and employers, and raise unrealistic expectations about the level of flexibility most businesses will be able to accommodate. The government's plans will also generate major uncertainty for employers, as they will represent the seventh change to parental leave in a decade, and the government is already talking about another change in 2018, hardly the sort of stability that ministers say they want to promise to businesses.

"It is right and desirable that a mother should be able to return to work when she feels ready, and transfer her remaining parental leave and pay to her partner if that is what works best for their family. However, we cannot support proposals encouraging parents to request patterns of shared leave alternating between them in chunks as small as a week and if the government is planning a review in 2018, it would make sense to delay this controversial element until that review. Few employers will be able to find adequate cover over an extended but non-continuous period. We believe that such requests will almost always be rejected as unworkable, causing unnecessary stress to the relationship between employer and employee.

"Requests to change leave arrangements will introduce further uncertainty for the employer, particularly because for the first time their relationship with their employee will become contingent on decisions by a third party - the employee's partner's employer. Such requests must allow sufficient time for the employer to alter their planned cover after the request has been agreed by both employers.

Ends

Notes to editors

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is the national voice of local business.

The BCC sits at the heart of a powerful nationwide network of Accredited Chambers of Commerce, serving over 100,000 businesses across the UK, which employ over five million people. For more information visit: www.britishchambers.org.uk

Media contacts

Lisa Morrison

T: +44 [0]20 7654 5812
M: +44 [0]7717682221
l.morrison@britishchambers.org.uk

Allan Williams

T: +44 [0]20 7654 5813
M: +44 [0]7825 746812
a.williams@britishchambers.org.uk